Challenges Again Face Fukushima Daiichi

Both NHK and Asahi Shimbun are reporting some bits of the ongoing challenge at the plant.

NHK is reporting that TEPCO has used up 90% of the water storage capacity at the plant. There is a plan to install more tanks but the tanks at Fukushima have already consumed a huge portion of the land near the plant.

The reliability of the cooling systems at the plant are also a major concern. TEPCO has gone on the cheap with the ad hoc cooling system of plastic hoses, duct tape and plastic. After a recent earthquake TEPCO began having issues keeping water flowing. They cited debris in the water as causing problems and clogging pipes. Some of this debris is large chunks of rust. Other is chunks of polyethylene TEPCO states in from the inside of the temporary pipes. TEPCO thinks the installation of some upgraded pipes from kanaflex plastic hose to solid white plastic pipes could have contributed to the debris. Last winter there was a considerable problem with the kanaflex hoses cracking, leaking and freezing. The summer and winter weather has been very hard on these hoses causing the plastic to degrade. TEPCO did do some last minute hose insulation last winter that seemed to help with the hose freezing issue. The remaining kanaflex hoses are at risk of more problems surviving a second winter. TEPCO has not cited if they will have all of the flexible hose replaced and insulated before winter.

Workers at the plant have stated that TEPCO is consistently trying to go on the cheap pushing workers to implement corner cutting solutions rather than ones that may cost more but less likely to fail. This incident is a good example of just such a problem at the plant. They found leaking flexible hose for the gas handling system. Pipes on either side of this hose are solid pipes. Instead of installing a solid gradual curve pipe or a 90 degree turn pipe they used a flexible hose that failed. The hose was “replaced” 9 days later. What was actually done was they put a very large section of shrink tubing over the broken flexible hose. TEPCO cites it took 9 days for this replacement part (the shrink tube) to be delivered. TEPCO had a similar problem where an electrical UPS failed and they had to scramble to find a replacement. TEPCO appears to have a purchasing and vendor problem on top of all their other issues.

TEPCO has had 56 water leak issues and and cooling stopped 12 times due to equipment failure or power loss.

TEPCO has been working to establish wells to bypass pump ground water around the plant and out to sea to prevent it from leaking into the plant and adding to the contaminated water problem. They have about 230,000 tons of tank space now and will be adding 470,000 for a total of 700,000 tons, the plant produces about 400 tons a day.  The total of tanks would hold about 5 years worth of water.

Asahi mentions that the reactors are in cold shutdown, a designation experts have disputed as being technically inaccurate as cold shutdown implies the fuel is in the reactor vessel. Asahi also claims the fuel is in the containment vessels. This has yet to be confirmed by TEPCO. A year and a half into the disaster they have no clue where the fuel actually is. There are plans to put a camera into unit 1’s containment in October and replace a thermometer. The inspection of unit 2’s containment didn’t result in any ability to locate the fuel or clues where it could be.

The radiation releases at the plant are about 10 million becquerels per hour. While these are lower than during the early days of the disaster this is still a huge amount of radiation leaking out of the plant into the air every day.

 

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